Faith leaders: corruption must be tackled to impact poverty

stopcorrupt(November 8, 2009) – Failure by countries to agree an effective monitoring and review process in Doha next week will perpetuate poverty in the developing world, say more than 100 faith leaders in a letter to the United Nations Secretary General.

On the eve of a crucial UN meeting on corruption, faith leaders are calling on both rich and poor countries to take seriously their commitment to tackle corruption.

Starting Monday 9th November, 141 countries that have signed the only global treaty against corruption (United Nations Convention Against Corruption – UNCAC) will meet for a week in Doha to try to agree on a review mechanism that would give the treaty some teeth.

In their letter, religious leaders from around the world state that corruption is a major cause of poverty in developing countries, causing the diversion of public funds, loss of investment and the reduction in tax revenues. Corruption hits the poorest and most vulnerable hardest.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the first ever global treaty to provide a comprehensive framework to prevent and criminalise corruption. This week, governments will meet in Doha to decide how to monitor implementation of the convention – essential if the convention is to be effective. To date, negotiations have ended in stalemate.

“We cannot afford further delays, this is a global opportunity to tackle corruption and help fight poverty,” says Rabbi Alan Plancey. “Without effective monitoring the convention is just empty rhetoric.”

Faith leaders are calling for urgent action on the agreement of a review mechanism for the Convention, and for this to be adopted by State Parties at the Doha conference in November. They say that the success of UNCAC in reducing corruption will hinge on the commitment of all nation states to fully implement its provisions, and the establishment of an effective review mechanism to monitor implementation.

“Put simply, corruption is at the heart of people’s experience of poverty,” says Professor Tariq Ramadan.

“For poor communities, corrupt practices constitute an insurmountable barrier to quality education, affordable healthcare and decent livelihoods. The opportunity and hope for so many in society is stolen by corruption.”

The faith leaders talk of a ‘moral imperative’ to tackle corruption, saying that it is condemned by all religions.

“In our view, two elements essential for a robust and credible review mechanism are transparency and the participation of civil society,” says President of Caritas Africa, Archbishop Cyprian Kizito of Kampala.

“Firstly, transparency – via the publication of reports and recommendations, is vital to ensure a fair and effective process. Honesty and integrity are the moral values that underpin any attempts to tackle corrupt practices and a commitment to a transparent review mechanism is testimony to political leadership that is mature and accountable.

“Secondly, civil society can positively contribute to the implementation of the Convention and the review process. Civil society organisations, including faith groups, provide an important link to communities experiencing poverty.

“The review mechanism must make room for the voices of men and women living in poverty. Indeed, if those most affected by corruption are not accorded space to feed in to the review, it will be impossible to accurately measure UNCAC’s effectiveness.”

“Our faith commits us to the pursuit of justice and to stand with those who are poor and vulnerable,” says Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales. “Corruption undermines the principles of justice and equality, eroding value systems, social cohesion and trust.”

It is hoped that a review mechanism – founded on the principles of transparency and civil society participation – will demonstrate to poor communities that those they have entrusted with power and leadership are willing to end the scourge of corruption.